Jim Johnston - 40 years as president of OOIDA

By Robert Esler, OOIDA life member

In 1995, with the collaboration of several of the staff, I wrote an article for Land Line about Jim Johnston, president of OOIDA. He had just completed 20 years as president and CEO of the Association.

I'm Bob Esler from Taylor, Mich. For OOIDA I wear a few hats. I'm a member since 1978 (member number 2421), secretary of the OOIDA Board of Directors, and I count myself as a good friend to Jim.

Before 1995, Jim had always vetoed any personal articles to be written about him in Land Line. If you look through issues for the first 20 years, you'll find plenty of opinion and articles written by Jim, and plenty of photos of him, but nothing about him in print.

In October of 1995, he agreed to talk about himself a bit. At the end, I asked Jim if he was up for another 20 years. His answer, "You bet." I replied, "See you in October 2015, boss."

Well, here we are and when the Board of Directors met Oct. 21-24, we re-elected Jim as president of OOIDA - a position he's now held for 40 years.

There is plenty to be said about stability in leadership - in the member ranks, in the Board of Directors, and in the workforce that serves those members from OOIDA's Missouri headquarters.

As Jim was building the business model, he realized that not only did the Association need a loyal membership for OOIDA to succeed, but it also needed aggressive lobbyists, top-notch attorneys and dedicated employees. Employees look for stability in the workplace and professionalism in management. OOIDA now has many employees with 20-30 years of service. Some have worked most of their lives at OOIDA. That loyalty only happens when employees have remarkable management at the top.

Jim also realized that if other publications were not going to report on OOIDA's activities, truckers needed to have their own. He founded Land Line in 1975, his first year as president of OOIDA. This year, Land Line celebrates its own 40th anniversary.

He has never lost sight of the mission, which has been the reason behind his enduring tenure. Without a doubt the membership is No. 1 to Jim. What began as a few has now grown to more than 152,000. The power of many working together, the collective voice, is a force that has established quite a track record.

In Jim's words, "We achieve our greatest victories when we are one." LL